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Digging in the dirt, getting healthy: New program promotes gardens as health education tool

Posted September 22

— A new program is working to enhance the well-being of local communities by showing young students how to grow their own, healthy food.

Twenty-two schools or YMCAs across North Carolina received grants to start or expand gardens as learning tools.

Blooming Botany teacher Kristin Hord said she loves to show students Hunter Elementary School's vegetable garden in southeast Raleigh.

"It's truly amazing to watch the kids, just their excitement level as we come outside and work in the beds," Hord said. "It's incredible to see."

United Healthcare and Whole Foods foundations provided the money to encourage children to eat healthy.

"(We need to be) teaching our children how to live a healthier life by getting in, digging in the dirt," said Anita Bachmann, CEO of United Healthcare of North Carolina, "and beginning to plant their own vegetables and then partake in those vegetables."

New program promotes gardens as health education tool

Having a garden at home, Christine Weingarten, a parent, said she knows the value of fresh food and worked to make sure Hunter Elementary received a $2,000 grant.

"Hopefully, this is a long-term project, that they'll eat more that they get to grow," Weingarten said.

North Carolina first lady Kristin Cooper is lending her support to this project. She sees it as a way fight serious problems in the state of childhood obesity and access to healthy food.

"We've been interested in a lot of issues that affect children," Cooper said. "Roy and I both grew up with grandparents who lived on farms, so we knew that, but that's not a common experience anymore."

She said educating children about living a healthy lifestyle should be an important priority in education.

"Kids who have that experience are more likely to make healthy choices when they shop and prepare foods, hopefully, for their family someday." Cooper said.

The garden at Hunter Elementary also provided fresh vegetables in Thanksgiving baskets for 20 local families last year. They hope to provide even more baskets this year, thanks to the grant money.

“Nourishing minds and bodies is critical to helping children succeed in school,” Cooper said. "A lot of kids these days grow up really far from where their food is made, and they won't eat a fresh vegetable."

Grant recipients in North Carolina:

  • Gouge Elementary School, Bakersville
  • Bunn Elementary School, Bunn
  • Blessed Sacrament School, Burlington
  • Culbreth Middle School, Chapel Hill
  • Garinger High School, Charlotte
  • Langdon C. Kerr Elementary, Clinton
  • Conover School, Conover
  • Reaching All Minds Academy, Durham
  • James B. Dudley High School, Greensboro
  • Third Street Education Center, Greenville
  • Woodson Branch Nature School, Marshall
  • Socrates Academy, Matthews
  • North Duplin Jr. Sr. High School, Mt. Olive
  • Perry W. Harrison Elementary, Pittsboro
  • St. Timothy's School, Raleigh
  • Lead Mine Elementary School, Raleigh
  • Harris Creek Elementary, Raleigh
  • Hunter Elementary School, Raleigh
  • Long Mill Elementary, Youngsville
  • YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain
  • YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, Statesville
  • YMCA Camp Harrison, Boomer
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